Fears that Britain could be left with a mountain of unwanted office desks, chairs and equipment have led sustainability experts to urge businesses to consider more sustainable options before disposing of office furniture and adding to an already substantial commercial waste problem.
Reports suggest as many as 73 per cent of business leaders are considering downsizing their offices because of the pandemic. According to an estimate from Crown Workspace, this will lead to nearly half (44 per cent) of office furniture becoming redundant.
Businesses that fail to address the issue face increased costs and an increased carbon footprint from the embodied carbon, warned Crown Workspace, adding a significant “45 per cent of emissions are due to the products and materials we consume”. Office furniture includes materials like plastics and textiles, both of which have a high level of embodied carbon.
Ann Beavis, Head of Sustainable Development at Crown Workspace, said: “We are seeing a lot of businesses either downsizing their office footprint or maintaining existing offices at reduced occupancy, with fewer desks and more collaborative spaces. This mass workplace transition is likely to have huge impacts, not least on carbon emissions and waste.
“There is always an opportunity to minimise waste and maximise value, whether that’s remanufacturing or repurposing furniture, or donating it to an organisation in the local community. We have found that purchasing used rather than new furniture can also have considerable cost and carbon savings – 40-80 per cent in both cases.
“The statistics are clear; we cannot allow nearly half of the UK’s office furniture to go to waste.”
1. View any unneeded equipment as a resource, not waste.
2. Use the waste hierarchy for office clearances, this will help prioritise options to reuse furniture and equipment.
3. Ensure collaboration across the business between the facilities, procurement and sustainability teams.
4. Embed the principles of a circular economy within your office, in the design, procurement, operations, and end-of-life of equipment.
5. Include embodied carbon (the emissions from producing goods and materials) alongside cost in your business case.
For a full report on carbon friendly workplace transitions, produced in collaboration with Business in the Community (BITC) click here.